Reno police are cracking down on large house parties, which public health officials say are spreading the coronavirus at a fast clip in Washoe County.
Last week, Washoe County officials argued bars and taverns should be allowed to reopen because the disease is being spread at private house gatherings. According to their reasoning, the crowds would move to bars, where they would be required to take precautions such as masks and social distancing.
The argument did not persuade Gov. Steve Sisolak’s state task force in charge of deciding whether counties can re-open closed businesses as the county’s infection rate remained high.
In an update before the task force on Thursday, Washoe County Manager Eric Brown said Reno police have begun using overtime to patrol for private house parties mostly in the neighborhoods around the University of Nevada Reno.
“On Friday and Saturday evenings the Reno Police Department will continue to deploy ‘party car’ officers utilizing overtime to address parties in Reno neighborhoods,” the county’s report read. “Although a lot of the efforts will surround the University of Nevada Reno which lies in the Reno Police Department’s jurisdiction, they will also respond to reports of party type disturbances throughout the city of Reno and address any violations that present COVID-19 risks.”
Under Sisolak’s directive, gatherings larger than 50 people are prohibited, but health experts advise a limit of 10 people. Washoe County currently prohibits groups larger than 25 people because of the high level of disease transmission.
The task force won’t make a decision until next week on whether bars can re-open in Washoe County.
Also Thursday, Washoe District Health Officer Kevin Dick said the county is keeping up with demands for coronavirus testing, but is unable to meet the 48-hour timeline for disease investigations.
Dick said patients are notified of a positive test within 24 hours. But investigators often are unable to reach them to begin the process of identifying who they had been in close contact with.
Dick said the county is relying on a state contract with Deloitte to conduct the contact tracing, but has not been updated on Deloitte’s progress.
“WCHD has not heard a report on the status of any contacts or contact tracing efforts since handing this off to Deloitte,” Dick’s report said.
Anjeanette Damon is the government watchdog reporter for the RGJ. You can reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @AnjeanetteDamon. If you care about shining a bright light on decisions made by your elected officials, please consider subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal.